Chair or stool: a seat with legs, for one person.
A chair can be like a friend, there when needed. Or a chair may be like a familiar song that evokes a memory. But too often those oddball chairs and stools are discarded or basement-bound.
I have done a lot of color studies, usually starting with a can of paint and a wood chair. What better way to understand purple, let’s say, than to sit in a bright purple chair.
But the chair story first began years ago when I purchased the old Moeller Jewelry Store building on Callow Avenue in the Charleston business district of Bremerton. It had been in business since 1918.
The long, narrow building was filled floor to ceiling with watch parts, jewelry, junk and a trillion miscellaneous items. It also housed some of the Northwest’s oldest, large antique display cabinetry. Soon I opened a second business, vintage and art items primarily.
One day I decided the store needed a chair. I went down the street to a junk store and ended up buying two old, rickety French Music stackable chairs.
The next day, my shop worker phoned to say the day was slow, so I told him to get some paint at Nayer’s and paint those chairs.
“What color?” he asked. I told him it didn’t really matter and to pick something out from the mismatched pile of paint behind the entrance door. The paint color was a goolish marine/army green, and so the chair project began.
After Stewart painted the two chairs, I went back and at $15 each bought five more music chairs and painted them. So began a color theme, as the odd little chairs encircled my home table where similar color doodads were now being collected. That army-green was wonderfully captivating.
This is where I unknowingly and unexpectedly entered the picture of exploring color. And the charming solo-chair concept presented itself, because I was painting furniture for my color studies for magazine articles, table installations and fine art painting pursuits.
It is usually how I get to know a color, to feel its absolute presence.
Each extensive study begins by buying a big can of paint. Then, next step is to find a chair to paint. During my “yellow” study I even painted plates yellow, so as to fit in a gallery window’s fine art yellow installation. Then fine art paintings ensued. But those single, oddball chairs became a subject in themselves and needed further investigations.
This current single-chair-realization grew into a shape I did not expect. Out of the shoot, I asked everyone I met one question, “Is there a single, lone, hard-back chair or stool in your home?”
A few made reference to the attic or basement, but most answers were either very personal stories or silent long pauses with a “Oh, ya.”
Recently I was at Rite Aid making CDs from the photos I had taken of chairs. The subject attracted almost everyone in the store.
A woman I didn’t know viewed my photo editing. “I have a special chair,” she said. I turned to inquire. “The old wood chair is green, the color of your shirt,” she said with a touch to my shoulder. “It was my mother-in-law’s. We organized and cleaned out all the things in her house. I stood on that chair reaching and cleaning. And that chipped, green old chair is the only thing I took home with me.”
Another person I met by happenstance told me of a close family member who was very heavy and thus made holiday dinners a bit awkward. Their set of dining chairs was on the fragile side. “We purchased a special sturdy chair,” he said. “And that chair lovingly waits her welcomed arrivals.”
Many of those I interviewed mentioned the antique chair passed down from generations. And then just as many looked off into the air before remembering the lone bedroom chair that aided so loyally as shoes were put on and where clothes were draped. That’s what happened to me recently when I went chair hunting, entered a seldom used guest bedroom and my jaw dropped as I saw the red chair with the blue cushion that I forgot existed. And it is a special chair that a friend gave me 15 years ago for my group figure-drawing sessions. Many a costumed model with large hat and antique shawl sat in that red chair.
Having a retail business, I have put many of those chairs up for sale.
Here is a shared observation. The single, old, unpainted hardback wood chairs are a dime a dozen, unless categorized as antique or unique vintage. But paint or decorate a little chair and personality and charm win over. Put that charming revamped chair next to a painted revamped table and the combination is a winning ticket. Oh my! Make that two painted cozy personalities snuggled with a painted small table, and zing-zing!
Did a poet say a chair is a chair is a chair? Not in this world.